Banned Books in a Dystopian World

There's a reason why there are so many banned books in dystopian worlds. In fact, if you look at dystopian lit, a lot of times one of the first things mentioned in world building is banned books.

FAHRENHEIT 451: Books of all kinds are banned--in fact, Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books are burned, hence the title.

DELIRIUM: Only approved works are allowed to be read--and often books are interpreted differently from how we look at them now, such as ROMEO AND JULIET, which in this world is considered a tale of warning about the madness love brings.

MATCHED: While grandparents might recall some banned works fondly, the kids being raised in this society are kept sheltered from literature so much that there is a list of 100 approved poems...and those are the only ones acceptable to read.

And on and on and on. Sometimes, it's simply a matter that the characters don't have time to read--they're too busy fighting to save the world. But in many, many cases, books and literature of all kinds are targeted specifically by the government and banned...often times with the caveat that reading such banned literature will result in your death--or worse.

So why are banned books so often wearing a bright red-and-white target symbol on their covers in dystopian worlds?

Because books are dangerous.

Look at that pile of bound paper on your bookshelf. Every single page is a bullet, every cover a holster. Books are possibly the most dangerous weapon in the world.

Because books are ideas.

Every book--the ones you love, the ones you hate, the ones you love to hate--every book has ideas in it. Every word, every comma, every "the end." Ideas. Ideas. There are so many ideas that they leak off the page and right into your head. There are the ideas the author intends to write. There are the ideas that author didn't intend to write, but are still there. There are the ideas that the reader thinks of as he's reading. There are the ideas the reader thinks of for long afterwards, little seeds of ideas that plant themselves in the gray matter of your brain and grow and grow and grow and grow and never, ever quit.

And ideas are dangerous.

That--that--is why books are banned in dystopian worlds.

And honestly? It's why books are banned in the real world, too.

People--not all people, but some very narrow-minded, angry, scared people--they know that ideas are dangerous. And they don't want people thinking them. It might be because they disagree with that idea and don't want that idea to grow like a tree in other people's minds. It might be because they just don't like ideas at all. But either way, the simple fact remains. When book-banners attack books, they aren't attacking the paper or the ink. That would be silly. They are attacking the ideas. Book-banners are idea-banners. Thought-banners. Individuality-banners.


And that is why I fight them. That is why they are wrong. That is why I will never be in favor of banning books.

Because I love ideas.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Absolutely right. This post itself plants ideas, and I hope they grow and grow.

Emily said...

LOVE. I agree. I think it's perfectly reasonable to disagree with ideas. Just not ok to censor.

Laura S. said...

Hear, hear! Awesome post. From my blog post today on censorship quotes: "Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas." ~Alfred Whitney Griswold

Thought that quote fit perfectly for your post today!

NeuroHormone said...

They make books bonfire in The Book Thief.
They actually burnt books during the WWII. History teachers told us about it. But I didn't feel like it was a crime at the time. in the classroom.
I realised the whole massacre when I read The Book Thief. It wasn't just papers. It was ideas.

Lindsay said...

Awesome post.

Kate Evangelista said...

This post made me want to suddenly start painting placards and stand in a picket line. Very powerful indeed.

JennaQuentin said...

This makes me think of Geaorge Washington crossing the Delaware with his troops. He ordered a pamphlet by Thomas Paine to be read to his men to encourage them on the daring attack..."These are the times that try men's souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Here's to dangerous writing, dangerous words, dangerous ideas that make people think they can dare dangerous things!!

Bettie said...

When I was writing The A-Men, I spent a lot of time researching banned children's books (like Wizard of Oz) as I wanted to create a future where fairy tales were seen as subversive and banned. That was very eye-opening --- and certainly showed how much we are groomed to think only in certain ways from very early on...